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March

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on March)

Stronger warmth from the sun, lengthening days and shortening nights mean that soil temperatures begin to increase appreciably during March. As a result, plant roots react to the warmer conditions, and signs of spring can be seen in the garden. coming first to the coastal areas in the south-west.’ (Frances Perry)

Crops that have been dormant right through the winter will now begin to show new green shoots, responding to the light and warmth‘. (David Mabey)

Traditional gardening books always advise: never work the soil when it is wet and sticky, and never trample wet clay soils. In the modern organic raised bed kitchen garden, however, those rules do not apply, as the soil is never walked on in the first place. The first sign of spring comes with the rapid growth of annual weeds on the beds. Such weeds should be regarded as treasure: having acted as valuable ground cover and protection for the overwintering soil, they will now be harvested as green manures and a free source of compost. Dig them carefully out of the beds with a hand trowel or fork, leaving the deeper levels of soil as little disturbed as possible, so as not to compromise the structure of the soil and its mycorrhiza (friendly fungi). Collect weeds in a plastic tub or trug, shake  any soil off the roots, and add to the beginnings of this year’s compost heap.

Traditional gardening books also warn against sowing seeds in cold wet soil, or alternatively warn of the dangers of cold March winds drying out the soil and being a danger to tender plants. Again, with raised bed gardening, such problems are largely irrelevant, as every vegetable seed you sow, and every seedling that you plant should be handled with care and covered right from the start of its life with horticultural fleece. The raised bed offers good drainage and prevents water-logging, however much it rains, whilst the fleece acts as a mini-cloche of light and warmth, whilst protecting  seeds and young plants from the ravages of frost and freezing winds.

Roots
Parsnips can be sown outdoors in the root beds from this month onwards, with turnips and carrots towards the end of the month. Cover the planted seeds with horticultural fleece, held down around the edges of the bed by canes or battens to protect the germinating plants from adverse weather conditions, and from pests.

Onions and leeks
This is a good month for planting onion sets. The traditional problems of birds pulling them out, and the wind disturbing them before they have formed proper roots, do not arise with the use of fleece from the beginning. As with onions and leeks grown from seed this month, it is important to raise the fleece above the tender and vulnerable green growing tips as they appear, to prevent them from growing bent under the fleece.

Brassicas
Cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower can all be sown in the brassica bed under fleece this month, as well as a first sowing of lettuce.

Potatoes
Traditional cautions about protecting potatoes from wet, cold, damp, frost and slugs are all overcome by the the use of fleece stretched over the potato bed from the beginning. ———————————————————————————————————————–
Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055                                                                                                      Leaflet No: CAL3

February

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on February)

For the gardener, February is a month to be endured, not enjoyed. If it brings a few mild days, do not be in too great a hurry to start spring sowing, for this is the time of the year when patience is a sensible virtue‘. (Frances Perry)

This month often has the worst weather of the year. It tends to be damp, wet and depressing. It is the lowest ebb of winter. Occasionally the sun appears, and you are deceived into thinking that spring has arrived early. Hopes rise, only to be dashed again as the the wind sets in, the rain pours and it freezes‘. (David Mabey)

In the modern organic raised bed kitchen garden, however, the very first plantings and sowings may be made towards the end of the month when conditions allow:

Broad beans
Broad beans can be sown outdoors in raised beds from this month onwards. Ensure the top soil is freshly turned over, warm, well-weeded, clean, and free of any detritus that may harbour overwintering pests such as woodlice, slugs and snails, and their eggs. Carefully plant the beans about three inches deep at least six inches (15cm) apart in rows six inches apart in a square formation, so that the bean plants have room to grow, and yet to support and cross-fertilise each other later. It is essential to cover the planted beans with horticultural fleece, held down around the edges of the bed by canes or battens to protect the beans from adverse weather conditions, and from pests such as slugs, snails and bean weevils.

Jerusalem artichokes
Place the tubers into good clean soil at least nine inches (22cm) apart, about four inches (10 cm) deep, and as with the broad beans, protect the tubers from pests by covering the raised bed with horticultural fleece.

Shallots and garlic
Plant the shallot bulbs or garlic cloves into a previously manured, weeded and pest-free raised bed, about eight inches (20cms) or six inches (15cms) apart each way, with the soil level well below the top edges of the bed. Press the bulbs firmly down into the soil until they are half-buried. The major pests of the onion family are birds, which pull them out, and cats which climb on the beds and disturb and uproot them. The best answer is to cover the bed with a layer of chicken wire until the bulbs are firmly rooted, and remove the wire when the green shoots start to grow through it.

OTHER TASKS
Potatoes. Seed potatoes can be chitted now by laying them in egg boxes or trays with the ‘eye’ end uppermost in a cool, light, frost-free place.

Rhubarb. Established rhubarb crowns should be emerging in February, and can be ‘forced’ for an earlier crop by covering them with old buckets or large clay forcing pots.

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Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055                                                                                                      Leaflet No: CAL2

January

January 22nd, 2013 | Posted by TOGSJames in KITCHEN GARDEN CALENDARS - (Comments Off on January)

Seasonal cold is not unwelcome in the January garden, if only because heavy rain is less likely when temperatures are low. There is a French saying that ‘a bad year comes in swimming‘.
(Frances Perry)

When the weather is impossible, give a little time indoors  to planning. Decide what you want to grow, check the seed catalogues, and order your seeds in plenty of time. A food garden should always be producing and working for you. It should never be fallow or resting. So even in bleak January, you should be able to lift leeks, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes and celery – all crops that can be ‘stored’ in the soil.‘ (David Mabey)

With organic raised-bed gardening, it is particularly important to look at previous years’ rotational plans, in order to ensure a good rotation of crops, and decide which type of crop to grow in each bed for this coming year. A typical four-year rotation plan would be potatoes, followed by pulses, followed by brassicas, followed by roots. Details of different rotational plans are given in all good basic gardening books and apply to all vegetable growing, whether on raised beds or not.

This is also the time to be looking back over the successes and failures of the previous year, and deciding whether to grow the same varieties or to try something different this coming year.

As Geoff Hamilton says ‘Gardening is all about optimism. In fact, January is one of the most exciting months of the year because there’s so much to look forward to. At the end of the month the first spring bulbs will break through and buds on trees and shrubs will start to fatten. Spring really is just around the corner.’

Roots and tubers
Parsnips can still be harvested throughout the winter. Grown on modern raised beds with access paths between, you should not have any trouble lifting them out of the ground, and there should be no waterlogging of the crops to contend with.

Pulses
After high winds or rainstorms, check on any autumn-sown Aquadulce broad beans and Meteor peas that you may have growing on raised beds under fleece, and replace the fleece or peg it down securely to protect crops from pests and frost.

Onions, leeks and garlic
Check on any autumn-planted onions and garlic, and keep them free of weeds, to help keep the soil around them as open to any sun and as dry as possible. Any leeks still to be harvested should be weeded and continually earthed up to keep them white with long blanched stems.

Brassicas
Continue to keep over-wintering cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflowers and kale netted against pigeons, whilst removing any yellowing leaves from the plants and keeping the stems well earthed up. Keep protecting any crops of ‘cut and come again’ perpetual spinach (leaf beet) from frost and pests such as slugs and snails with a covering of horticultural fleece.

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Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055                                                                                                      Leaflet No: CAL1